The Expository Files

Why I Do Not Drink

George W. Bush has said he does not drink at all. His reasons have to do with his (bad) experience with alcohol and perhaps his wife's urging. It is refreshing to hear a public figure claim total abstinence. We can hope and pray that this will get the attention of young people, who continue to be under tremendous pressure to take the risks of alcoholic consumption. And adults who already have a problem should give heed too. Though not for all the same reasons, I do not drink. Below are some of my reasons:

I do not drink because I was trained from childhood to abstain. I admit, with no apology, that I am the product of the influence and nurturing of my early childhood and family. There was not a drop of liquor, beer or wine in our home and I never observed anybody drink alcohol in our family. We were simply taught not to drink at all. In Bible classes and preaching, I grew up hearing good people use the Scriptures to confirm the prohibition policy I learned from my parents. I suppose it could be said I was na´ve. Many years into adulthood I became acquainted with members of the church who claimed to be moderate drinkers, and I was both stunned and disappointed. I'm not talking about the measured medicinal use of necessary alcoholic products. There are folks in local churches who drink socially and use alcohol for recreational purposes -- some will argue that their behavior does not come into conflict with Biblical instruction. When I first encountered this, I was bewildered, since my whole upbringing was against social, moderate drinking. One reason I do not drink is, I was trained to abstain. I do not resent that. It is a policy I believe is wise.

I do not drink because of the risks I would expose myself to. In Texas now, drivers are considered legally intoxicated with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08%. There are many factors that affect the rate of absorption and intoxication: body weight and composition, individual metabolism, stomach contents, any medicines you have taken and the situation, your mood and why you have chosen to drink - all of this is involved. Depending upon all the variables - this level (.08%) could be acquired by a couple of drinks. Slight mood changes and impaired judgment can begin before the legal figure is reached. So there are legal consequences in addition to the increased chance of an accident. There are health risks and the possibility of addiction problems. I want to be a faithful steward in the use of all the gifts God has afforded me, both spiritual and physical. So I've decided not to expose my mind and body to this drug. {In recent news, Congress is adopting .08% as a national standard. States that fail to impose this will begin losing millions of dollars a year in federal highway funds.}

I do not drink because I do not want to give the liquor industry a dime of revenue. I understand that this is the era of huge corporate diversity - and it may be that I'm buying food products (crackers and cheese) from a parent company with direct liquor holdings. I cannot control or even monitor the money chain after I buy my crackers. But I will not give them any profit through their marketing of liquor. I am not aware of any good at all the beer, wine and liquor industry can claim, especially when compared to all the fatalities, broken homes and many other kinds of loss.

I do not drink because I do not want to give anybody any encouragement or reason to drink; I am concerned about my influence. I do not believe anybody can argue that there is a clear, absolute line separating moderation from excess. Since this is so, my moderation could influence someone beyond moderation into excess. Even those who argue in favor of moderation must grant the principle written by the apostle Paul: "Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never again eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble," (1 Cor. 8:13).

I do not drink because of what the Scriptures teach. When I consider everything the Bible says about being sober-minded (Rom. 12:3; Tit. 2:6; 1 Pet. 5:8), it gives me additional motivation to avoid the moderate or recreational use of alcohol. Then, when I study passages that warn against intoxication, I find further reason for my personal policy of abstinence (Eph. 5:18; Rom. 13:13; 1 Pet. 4:1-5). {See Footnote}.

I do not drink because I'm impressed by the history of alcohol's influence. Noah's choice to drink took away his modesty (Gen. 9:20-27). Lot was easily lured into sexual immorality (Gen. 10:30-36). Belshazzar desecrated the sacred vessels plundered from the Temple in Jerusalem (Dan. 5:2). Total abstinence was required of anyone performing a sacred office or service under the law of Moses. A king was admonished to forgo intoxicating drink while he judged the people (Prov. 31:4-5). A priest had to be fully alert and sober while ministering in the Temple (Lev. 10:8-11). If moderate use of alcohol is innocent and without consequence, why were these law written? Members of a local church guilty of drunkenness are to be withdrawn from (1 Cor. 5:11), and drunkards "shall not inherit the kingdom of God," (1 Cor. 6:9-10).
All things considered, this is the basis of my personal decision of total abstinence. I cannot enforce this on everybody and I have no special authority to demand that my view prevail. All I can do is explain my reasons and ask that the Scriptures be studied.

29 Who has woe?
Who has sorrow?
Who has contentions?
Who has complaints?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?
30 Those who linger long at the wine,
Those who go in search of mixed wine.
31 Do not look on the wine when it is red,
When it sparkles in the cup,
When it swirls around smoothly;
32 At the last it bites like a serpent,
And stings like a viper.
33 Your eyes will see strange things,
And your heart will utter perverse things.
34 Yes, you will be like one who lies down in the midst of the sea,
Or like one who lies at the top of the mast, saying:
35 "They have struck me, but I was not hurt;
They have beaten me, but I did not feel it.
When shall I awake, that I may seek another drink?"
Proverbs 23:29-35


I do not assume that "wine" always means an intoxicating beverage. In some passages, "wine" is simply a reference to the juice from the grape (in Isa. 65:8, still in the cluster). The context informs me of the specific use of the term. Thus "wine" in Prov. 20:1 is "a mocker," while in other passages, nothing in the context indicates fermentation (I do not believe Jesus produced an intoxicating beverage in Cana, see John 2:1-12).

Regarding the passages often appealed to in First Timothy -- as I suggested earlier, I am not opposed to any legitimate medicinal use of alcohol (1 Tim. 5:23). It is also my view that 1 Tim. 3:8 condemns excess, but does not grant permission (it is flawed reasoning to use a prohibition, as in 1 Tim. 3:8, to assert permission. Eccl. 7:17 condemns excessive wickedness -- but certainly grants no permission for a little!). So when I consider the sum of Scriptural testimony and use that teaching to think my way through the various arguments for moderation and the quibbles of men - my personal policy of abstinence remains fixed.

By Warren E. Berkley
The Front Page
From Expository Files 7.11; November 2000